Equipt's Alaska Solo Trek June/July 2014

Equipt

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Paul

Sorry - missed this thread earlier.
Great stuff and good to see the CA/Alaska portion you're travelling as we'll be hitting that shortly.

I'm a 1/2hr from Bellingham and I see your dates around the 8th but not sure of your Ferry*3
7-08 Ferry to Bellingham WA
7-09 Ferry
7-10 Ferry
before you hit Seattle (1hr from us)

Love to have you stay here for some Irish hospitality and a home-cooked meal (may come with a drink or two and some 'tarts').

We're (+3 kids + trailer behind Landcruiser 80) setting off in Sept to Alaska -> Mexico -> Central -> South America -> Africa -> Europe -> Ireland - approx 1yr, 30K miles and would like to see your setup, get some advice on equipment etc.

We've been R&Ding for some time (need to get a page up here) and have had several overlanders stay with us on their travels up North (from South America), the last few months (Feliz, Simone, Neil, Milan + Lizzybus). All have done or still exploring Alaska recently.
The Lizzybus folks (Jayne/David) should be here (120K miles, 5 yrs on road in LR) - FB

Also doing a BBQ 4x4 get-together on the 12th (Sat) July if anyone is around (general invite) - just "book up" here and info here (+swap truck parts)


Our upcoming website

All the best
Brendan Lally thelal at iname dot com
303 532-5898 Sedro-Woolley WA 98284 exit 232-230 I5 N. Mt Vernon
Hi Brendan,

Your trip sounds incredible. It is quite an endeavor to prepare for such a monumental journey. I wish you the best of luck in your travels. Troy and I hit the dock in Bellingham at 8:00 am on the 11th. I really appreciate the offer. We've had several folks that have been kind enough to make a similar offer. Because of our schedule we only have one day to see Seattle, and that is the 11th. So unfortunately we aren't able to stick around up north for long. If you have time to meet for breakfast on Friday, we would be happy to get together. Then we'll head into town from there. It's Troy's only chance to check out the town, and there is plenty to see. Let me know if breakfast would work.

Thanks,
 

Equipt

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Paul, it seems you are having a blast. Great excursion and an awesome write up!!!

Tell Heather I say hello and hope your journey is blessed with no troubles at all. Enjoy your trip!!!

Enjoy your tent lights too!

Ross-
Hey Ross!

It's great to hear from you. Yep, we are having a blast. Heather says hi! We've loved having the lights in the roof top tent. So, so handy. And plenty bright.

Take care.
 

Equipt

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Denali Hwy/Haines Hwy

Denali Hwy/Haines Hwy
Mile 6750

Our route took us across the Denali Highway today. A beautiful 135 mile long graded backroad that offered plenty of vistas and only a few other folks. It was a beautiful route. The weather was rainy, so I am sure we didn’t see all we should have. The weather had made the road a bit rougher than others I had been on up there, but it wasn’t too bad. We came out at Paxson and turned south. A left turn one hour later pointed us to Tok AK. Reaching Tok culminated one really big circle around Alaska. I went through Tok on my way north to Fairbanks one week earlier.

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We made pretty good time today, making it through the Canadian border and to a campground roughly half way from the border to Haines Junction. After a night around a camp fire, Heather and I made our way east again. We drove by Kuane Lake, then south at Haines Junction. The Haines Highway south to Haines is probably one of the prettiest paved roads I have ever been on. The alpine scenery was endless. We made it into Haines and found a camp spot right on the water downtown. This would be home for 2 nights.

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On a separate note, moose can’t dance. In the last two days we missed hitting moose on two separate occasions. It wasn’t from their lack of trying. The first instance was heading north from Talkeetna to the Denali Highway junction. A rather large fella tried to jump into the road but slipped and fell before getting right out in the middle. Some quick braking was all that was needed. The moose got up and ran off into the trees, rather embarrassed for his lack of fancy footwork. The second averted disaster was south of Paxson. Mama moose was showing her child how to dance in traffic. The smaller guy made it about three steps before hitting the turf. Braking this time brought us 15’ from mama in front of us, and 10’ from her little one to our side in the oncoming lane. Not a good place to be. Luckily, mama went around us and back to the baby moose to make sure it was alright. Everyone left the dance in good shape.
 

thelal

Observer
Paul/Heather/Troy
Bellingham around 8 am on 11th for breakfast sounds fine. Call me/email as you get closer and we can arrange a spot.
 

Equipt

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OK, will do. We hop on the boat late tomorrow night. No internet there, as far as I know. So I will call you when my phone gets in range.

Thanks,
 

Arktikos

Explorer
The Haines Highway south to Haines is probably one of the prettiest paved roads I have ever been on.
Absolutely!
On the 4th of July I walked downtown in Juneau to watch a 1 mile footrace preceding the annual parade. The course loops around and finishes by the Goldbelt Hotel, so I headed that way. And, guess what I see parked in the small parking lot adjacent to the hotel? Why, it's the big EQUIPT 4runner.
Perfect place to watch the race and catch Paul, who obliged by showing up with his wife a few minutes later. We had a nice chat, and Paul graciously showed off his truck. In the photos shared here on the Portal, I hadn't appreciated the size and attractiveness of it. Or, of course, all of it's keen features. Really awesome truck, and very pleasant fellow. Thanks Paul.
 

Equipt

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It was great to meet with you as well. I am glad you tracked us down, and we had time to chat. The parade was a hoot! I'll have some comments on that shortly.

Cheers,
 

Equipt

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Haines AK

Haines AK
Mile 6800

After a good couple days of driving, we had a chance to slow down and spend some time in one place. At the suggestion of our good friend Christophe Noel we chose to spend a day in the small coastal town of Haines and the surrounding area. We are sure glad we did. It's a great little town, filled with Alaskan charm. We drove west from our camp downtown to Chilkoot Lake. It's a freshwater just above sea level up one of the many inlets along the Haines coastal area, at the end of the road. You can take a kayak tour on the calm water, or hike around some. The Chilkoot river flows from the south end, making it's way several miles gently down to the Pacific. The river is known for it's salmon fishing and bear watching. No bears sighted, but we did see a fisherman.

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Our next destination took us west of town to the Chilkat State Park. We drove up over the hill west of town and down into another inlet. The views were spectacular. Across the water way was a mountain range rising straight out of the ocean, with several glaciers as the main focal point.

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We headed back into town in time to stop by the Haines Brewing Company brewery. In the early 90s, the motion picture “White Fang” was filmed in Haines. After the production left, the city of Haines relocated the entire small town set to the fair grounds facility. The Haines Brewing Company is a one room brewery inside one of the buildings from the set. Tour and tasting available daily. Pretty cool. We headed back to camp, wharf side, and walked over to our new favorite restaurant called Fireweed. Top notch grub. Pizzas, pastas, salads, and DBC on tap of course.
 

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Juneau, Part 1

Juneau, Part 1
Mile 6900

The next morning we boarded a ferry bound for Juneau AK. Alaska has a state run ferry system called the Alaska Marine Highway. It is a fleet of well maintained vehicle transport vessels the make their way up and down the coast, offering connection to the outside world to these small waterlocked townships. For many, the only connection is by water or air. That is Juneau. There is no road to Juneau, but there is a highway. We lined up and made our way on board. Locked up and went to the upstairs viewing area for the 3 hour sail. I have heard by many that the way to see Alaska is by water or air, or both if you can. The ferry ride gave us a whole new perspective on this huge state. Beautiful.

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The ferry dock is located in Auke Bay, roughly 20 minutes north of Juneau proper. We disembarked at roughly 1:30, and headed south to our first site seeing goal. The Mendenhall Glacier. Mendenhall Glacier feeds a lake at it’s toe. The lake looks more like a giant cocktail with all the calved glacier iceberg floating in it. A waterfall to the south side is the final hurray for Nugget Creek. We decided to take a hike along the East Glacier Trail. The trail heads up the mountainside behind the Visitors Center, raising in elevation around 800 feet. It felt like twice that. Heather and I were huffing and puffing our way up the trail as happy local runners passed us not even breathing hard. I don’t play well with humidity, and was a wet as a bar towel by the time we got to the high point overlook. The trail was a showcase of rainforest greenery, with clear water streams meandering down the slope. The overlook was straight down Nugget Falls as it goes into Mendenhall Lake.

Juneau 1 4.jpg
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It was really nice to get out and stretch our legs for a while. But we needed to get to our hotel and prepare for the holiday festivities.
 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
Haines AK
Mile 6800

After a good couple days of driving, we had a chance to slow down and spend some time in one place. At the suggestion of our good friend Christophe Noel we chose to spend a day in the small coastal town of Haines and the surrounding area. We are sure glad we did. It's a great little town,
Haines Brewery, Chilkoot Lake, Fireweed...sure makes me miss living there. Seriously, makes my heart heavy thinking about it. Glad you got to experience Haines. Every single day I spent there made me feel genuinely blessed.
 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
Touching. Yes, for an outdoors man (or woman) who doesn't require much social or cultural stimulation, Haines is a paradise.
The first year we lived there, NOBODY would talk to us. The people of Haines were/are so protective of people moving into their paradise, they made no bones about making newcomers feel unwelcome. Year two they realized we had the fortitude to stick out a winter and hack it. Then...we started getting invited to parties, BBQs, etc. It's like a day passed and we were welcomed to the fold.

I still wouldn't say the people of Haines are warm and fuzzy to anyone other than their inner circle. It didn't help that damn near every publication from Outside Magazine to National Geographic and Men's Health listed it as one of the top 5 outdoor towns in the world.
 

Equipt

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Fourth of July in Juneau

Fourth of July in Juneau
Mile 6950

Our entire schedule for this trip was based off one activity. The Fireworks in Juneau for the Fourth of July. Our good friend Dave Connors had told us that it was something to behold, and a must see if the schedule would allow. So that gave us a day to work around. From that we backed in Heather’s schedule for flights, my timeline to meet her, and our ferry scheduling that all needed reservations. And from that we pre-registered for various other excursions along the way. The Fourth was the fixed point for the whole trip, and it was now here.

The Fourth of July Celebration in Juneau actually starts on July 3rd. Revelers fill the streets “preparing” for the midnight fireworks show. We prepared as best we could at our now favorite place in town called The Hangar. A wharf side bar and grill with the best view of the harbor there is. Juneau puts a fireworks barge in the middle of Gastineau Channel near downtown, and at the stroke of 12:00am the skyline is transformed into a kaleidoscope of explosive color. It was absolutely impressive. Juneau is a relatively small town, but you would not know it by this display. It went of for more than 45 minutes. One of the best shows I have seen.

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The next morning our plan was to get up and out of the downtown before the parade. Our incredibly slow coffee/bagel shop delayed our departure from the hotel parking lot, locking us in until the parade was over. The route was right in front of our hotel. I am now glad they did. It was an absolute blast watching this downtown parade. We pulled our camp chairs and raincoats, and watched the parade. Just before it started a man walked up to me and introduced himself. It was Blind Cleric (Bret) from Juneau. I had his info written down, but hadn’t had time to contact him. I am glad he stopped by. We chatted for a while about the area and our vehicle. It was great to meet you Brad. Thanks,

The parade had the usual flair of most small town parades, where you are either in the parade or watching it. The whole gambit of exhibitionists was out, from political candidates to the local Ditch Witch and electric car dealers. There were fire engines, mine disaster recovery teams, volunteer marching bands, Indian Tribes and Shriners, dance class teams, LGBT and breastfeeding supporters all throwing candy to the kids on the side of the road. What else could you ask for? The cast of characters seemed endless. I smiled for a solid hour and a half. What a hoot! I am glad my bagel was late. You know it’s over when the street sweepers come by. No red, white and blue streamers for them. Just business. I am not sure how to narrow down the images to share with you here. Just too many great shots.

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The parade comes down Egan, circles through downtown and comes back up Egan, just in case you missed anything the first time. We finally put away the chairs and headed out for our next excursion around 2:00pm, already worn out on all the fun.
 

Equipt

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Juneau Marine Wildlife and Salmon Bake

Juneau Marine Wildlife and Salmon Bake
Mile 6950


The second half of our July Fourth was scheduled with a marine wildlife tour and salmon bake. We booked with Allen Marine tours. Allen is the largest marine tour company in Alaska, and they build their catamaran boats to boot. Impressive. We left from their dock in Auke Bay in mid afternoon. The ride out of the bay and around the northern tip of Douglas Island was great. They took us to Orca Point Lodge on Colt Island. The lodge was very nice, and the silver salmon was as fresh as you can get. After dinner and a stroll on their rocky shore we boarded the catamaran again to go in search of whales.

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Just off the south shore of Shelter Island we came across a group of hump back whales. There were 6-8 of them fishing together. They do an interesting tactic called bubble netting where they surround a school of fish in a ring of bubbles and force them upward. One whale seems to take point on the complex fishing technique, circling and raising through the center of all the other whales and school. They all suck in as many fish as they can, and sink back out of sight. It’s tough to tell where the whales will do this next, but luckily we had a flock of mew gulls with us. The gulls would go into a frenzy right above where the circled school was just seconds before they all come out of the water. Thanks guys.

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Moving back toward the Juneau cost, we caught up with 3 Orca Whales. Two large ones and a baby. They were moving along the coastline searching for dinner. There are 3 types of killer whales. News to me. Out in the bay we stopped by the favorite sea lion hang out. That is what they were doing.

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From what the crew was saying to us, we were a pretty lucky bunch. Watching a team of hump back whales bubble netting is very very rare. As is the sighting of Orca in this time of year. I felt lucky to be here. It was a very nice day indeed.

Allen Marine 11.JPG
 

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Mendenhall Hike and Helicopter Ride

Mendenhall Hike and Helicopter Ride
Mile 6975

Heather’s final day on our adventure was packed with activity. Our goal was to do the hike we had planned for prior to our holiday parade intervention. Mendenhall West Glacier Trail. We had a limited timeframe to accomplish this hike. He had to be back to the airport mid afternoon for our grand finally.

We packed our daypacks, drove out to the Mendenhall valley and the trailhead. Final bug protection, and we were off. The trail was incredibly beautiful. It starts out rather tame and eventually heads up the mountainside. The final mile or so becomes an all four limb scrabble through rocks, water and trees. Because of our time limit, we only made it to the overlook for the glacier, but it was worth it. The hues of blue from the glacier ice are like nothing I have seen before. No wonder Slurpee and Gatorade call that flavor glacier. I get it now. A quick bite of lunch and back down the trail we go. It was a great adventure, and I am glad we made the effort to go out there.

West Glacier 1.JPGWest Glacier 2.JPG

Now this is what I have been waiting for all week. We hired Temsco Air to take us on a helicopter ride. We signed up for the Pilot’s Choice flight, which means that the destinations for the flight are completely up to the pilot and his assessment of the conditions. The skies had cleared for us today. A real rare occasion. From the second we left the ground I was grinning ear to ear. This is my second time in a helicopter, and I love it. We rose in elevation around 5,000 feet in the first 10 minutes of the flight, climbing up over Auke Bay northward, then into the mountains to the east. After rumbling through a couple valleys we turn up a glacier and set the chopper down for our first of two landings. Incredible. The geography was so raw. Glacier pure water cutting through the dust swept glacier top, creating clear pools of deep blue.

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We took off again, heading east and up. Our pilot asked if we were ready to awed. I’m thinking “Yep! Bring it!” He rose up over a cornice between two peaks to an endless sea of white. I was in awe. I started to giggle like a schoolgirl. Flying over the Juneau Ice field will go down as one of the most incredible things I have done. Rugged peaks in every direction, encircling a sea of pure white ice. Epic memory. We made our second landing in a cirque on the west side for some photos and to touch the ice. I looked pretty silly in my shorts and glacier boots, but I didn’t care. This was awesome!

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We returned over Nugget Valley, where the river waterfall into Mendenhall lake originates, and landed safely back at the Temsco airfield. I was grinning for the next 6 hours. What a day. Record book stuff. Whew.

Temsco 6.JPG
 
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